Fonterra said Kowbucha likely provides an easier solution generally as farmers only have to feed it to calves when they are being reared, given it is expected to have a lasting impact. 

BURP PRICING 

New Zealand will in 2025 become the first country to price agricultural emissions, including methane emissions from burping cows and sheep, whose digestive systems produce methane when breaking down vegetation. Agricultural emissions account for around half of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. 

Ahead of that, farmers, businesses and scientists are working on ways to cut emissions without reducing herd number, given agricultural products make up more than 75 percent of the country’s goods exports. 

As well as the early optimism around Kowbucha, AgResearch scientists said in December they had successfully bred low-methane producing sheep, while a product called EcoPond that almost eradicates methane in farm sewage has been on sale since late 2021. 

New Zealand is also considering whether supplements that have had success abroad can be adapted locally. Much of the science overseas focuses on altering barn animals’ food and is harder to implement in a country where animals largely live outdoors and eat grass. 

“The easiest way to reduce emissions is to reduce production or have less animals basically, so that’s a real challenge when we’re trying to also produce food and keep our export returns at the level that we want them,” said ANZ agricultural economist Susan Kilsby. 

Ahead of 2025, the government is considering exactly how to price agricultural emissions. 

While pricing farm emissions is not universally popular, many believe it is the push farmers need to reduce them. 

Mike Manning, general manager of innovation and strategy at agricultural cooperative Ravensdown, said farmers have been slow to adopt its EcoPond technology without financial incentives. 

The system cuts up to 99 percent of the methane emitted from the manure-sludge left behind in a dairy shed after milking. 

“People go ‘well, I might wait until I have a price of methane then I have a financial driver’,” Manning added. 

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